Tribpedia: Death Penalty

Tribpedia

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment for capital murder convictions in Texas, which leads the nation in the number of executions since the practice resumed in 1976.

The state has adopted various methods to administer the death penalty over the years, including hanging (1819-1923), electrocution (1924-1964) and lethal injection (1977-today), according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's ...

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Supreme Court Hears Texas Death Penalty DNA Case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard testimony Wednesday in a case that could have far-reaching ramifications for criminal justice nationally. Lawyers for Henry “Hank” Skinner maintain that the Texas death row inmate has a civil right to access DNA evidence that could exonerate him in the 1993 murders of his live-in girlfriend and her two sons. Lawyers for the state argue that Skinner exhausted his opportunity to analyze potentially exculpatory evidence when his defense team declined to request testing at his original trial, fearing that the results might be incriminating.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 9/20/10

Aguilar on Mexican journalists in grave danger, Galbraith on the continuing saga of Texas vs. the EPA, Ramshaw on whether a broken hospital bed constitutes medical malpractice, M. Smith on the latest delay in the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Hamilton interviews a Sarah Palin-approved GOP candidate for Congress, Stiles goes all interactive in chronicling the massive increase in legislative filings in the last 20 years, Grissom talks about the criminalization of mental illness with an author who knows the subject first-hand, Philpott on closing the budget gap without federal stimulus money, Ramsey on everyone ignoring down-ballot candidates, Hu on the mysterious lack of Rick Perry yard signs and yours truly sits down with the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor: The best of our best from September 20 to 24, 2010.

Trying to Restore Integrity to Death Row Defense

After a series of investigative reports revealed serious problems with the quality of legal representation for indigent defendants on Texas death row, lawmakers created the Office of Capital Writs. California lawyer Brad Levenson will be moving to Texas to open the new office and attempt to restore some confidence in the state's busy system of capital punishment.

John Bradley, left, is the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Cameron Todd Willingham, right, was executed for setting a house fire that killed his three daughters.
John Bradley, left, is the new chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Cameron Todd Willingham, right, was executed for setting a house fire that killed his three daughters.

Agency Needs More Time for Willingham Case

Since his appointment, the alternately amiable and peevish, typically cowboy-boot-shod chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission has comported himself as a virtuoso of the bureaucratic dawdle. With the commission's investigation of the now-notorious Cameron Todd Willingham case "still in its infancy," John Bradley has this to say about when it might conclude its review: "However long it takes, that’s however long it takes.”

Greg Abbott (left), Craig Watkins (right)
Greg Abbott (left), Craig Watkins (right)

Dallas DA's Refusal of AG Assistance a Rare Move

Depending on whom you ask, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ repeated refusal to allow Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott into a local corruption investigation is either bold or stupid. Either way, it’s unusual. Abbott has offered prosecution assistance to local district attorneys 226 times since 2007, when lawmakers first gave him permission to do it. In all but 16 cases, he’s been invited in. And Watkins didn't decline politely.

From left to right: Garry Adams, Sarah Kerrigan, and Aliece Watts at the House Public Safety Committee hearing.
From left to right: Garry Adams, Sarah Kerrigan, and Aliece Watts at the House Public Safety Committee hearing.

Lawmakers Grill Forensic Science Commission

Ninety minutes of back-and-forth on Wednesday between a House committee and representatives of the Texas Forensic Science Commission — but not its chairman — covered the besieged agency’s nonexistent enforcement power, lack of written procedural guidelines, and public records policy. Oh, and the late Cameron Todd Willingham.

Dallas DA Campaigns Nationally to Hold Local Seat

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins won’t go so far as to compare his support to the near-divine fervor of President Obama’s. But Watkins, who gained national prominence for using DNA evidence to exonerate nearly two dozen wrongfully convicted people in one of Texas’ notoriously tough-on-crime jurisdictions, will come close. “It’s a religious experience to vote for Craig Watkins,” Texas’ first African-American D.A. says without irony. Like Obama, he says, other Democratic candidates are “hanging their hats” on his re-election — and on the minority voters he draws to the polls. Like Obama, he’s got “a big target” on his back. “I’ve got to fight the political attacks coming at me from all directions," he insists. “I’ll say it publicly: If you throw punches at us, we’ll drop a bomb on you.”

International media gather around death penalty abolitionist Kiersten Saldano shortly after the Supreme Court announced a stay of Hank Skinner's execution.
International media gather around death penalty abolitionist Kiersten Saldano shortly after the Supreme Court announced a stay of Hank Skinner's execution.

Texas Death Row Inmate Skinner Gets Stay

Hank Skinner was set to die Wednesday for the 1993 murders of his live-in girlfriend and her two mentally disabled adult sons — a crime he insists he did not commit. About an hour before he was to have poison pushed through his veins, the U.S. Supreme Court spared his life.